Professional drivers who operate passenger-carrying vehicles — whether they are city buses, airport shuttles or motorcoaches — are in the business of transporting people. Vigilance, professionalism and an unwavering commitment to safety are paramount job skills.
Drivers are the face of the business, and driver behavior is critical to quality service, but difficult to assess. A supervisor doing a ride-along finds that the driver is smiling, courteous and an excellent driver while the supervisor is in the vehicle, not an atypical response to direct observation. In fact, it is very common and can be attributed to a phenomenon known in human behavioral sciences as the Hawthorne Effect.
In the late 1920s, a young production line supervisor in charge of an assembly line at the Hawthorne Works plant (part of the Western Electric Company) in Cicero, Ill., noted that the lighting in and around the production line was sparse and dingy, making it hard to see the work. He decided to brighten the area and immediately saw worker performance and output improve. Thinking that if some light was good, more light must be better, the supervisor increased the brightness of the work area and saw output improve again. The supervisor began to question this phenomenon. What if the relationship between lighting level and production output were not cause and effect? He removed all of the incremental light he had added and returned the production environment to its original dimly lit state. Surprisingly, production went up again.
Productivity went up regardless of whether illumination increased or decreased. Lighting was not the performance driver, but rather, the fact that someone was watching the workers, noticing their behavior and measuring their output. Someone cared and this made all the difference. If you do not watch, if you do not measure, if you do not have meaningful consequences, the subtle message you are communicating to your employees is that whatever the endeavor, it does not really matter, it is not really meaningful and no one really cares.
Behavior-based driver risk management solutions that incorporate video/audio event recorders and driver coaching have a similar effect in that they provide immediate feedback on driver performance.
How and Why Driver Risk Management Solutions Work
Driver risk management solutions help fleets predict and prevent risky driving behavior that is likely to result in an accident. A palm-sized exception-based video event recorder is mounted in a vehicle, typically on the windshield behind the rearview mirror, and captures sights and sounds inside and outside the vehicle. The video event recorder is continually recording on a loop, but does not save an event unless an exceptional force, such as hard braking, swerving, sudden acceleration or collision, triggers it. At that point, the video event recorder saves the critical seconds immediately before and after the triggering event. Saved events are downloaded, analyzed, scored and used in ongoing driver coaching programs to improve behavior and mitigate driver risk.
A light on the video event recorder changes from green to red when an event has been saved, letting drivers know immediately that they have exhibited a risky driving behavior. Like the line supervisor in the Hawthorne Works plant, driver risk management solutions notice performance and that fact alone spurs safer driving. Drivers do not want to trigger the event recorder and remain conscious of their driving long after they have participated in their organization’s formal driver training workshops and/or a new-hire probationary period has ended. The video event recorder acts as a virtual driving coach in the vehicle reminding drivers to stay focused and preventing them from falling back on old habits, developing new risky habits or simply becoming lax in their driving behavior.